A Cardiologist is a Board-Certified Doctor who treats and diagnoses all conditions and problems of the heart. They also diagnose and treat conditions related to blood pressure. When searching for a Cardiologist, it is very important that you choose a physician that you feel comfortable with, and are able to easily communicate with. Your primary healthcare provider (Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, or OB/GYN) can facilitate a referral to a cardiologist, and you can also do your due diligence by checking the credentials and practice style of the doctor. At myDoqter, you have access to patient feedback about doctors, and you can also see the professional recommendations given by other physicians who have witnessed first-hand the expertise and professional competency of your doctor.
Medical doctors who specialize in Cardiology undergo a strict educational and training curriculum, in order to acquire the level of expertise required to provide you with the highest level of medical care. The following illustrates the training requirements of a Cardiologist:
CARDIO from the Greek word ‘cardio’ for ‘heart’ + LOGY from the Greek word ‘logia’ which means ‘logic’ or ‘the study of’.
Cardiologists treat an extensive list of heart conditions, including:
Cardiovascular or Heart Disease: Cardiovascular Disease includes, among others, the conditions of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.
Heart Disease: This condition is closely related to the atherosclerosis process, which refers to plaque buildup in the arteries. A buildup of plaque can narrow the arteries, and then lead to a Heart Attack or Stroke from loss of supply of blood and oxygen to the heart or brain, respectively. This is particularly worsened if a blood clot forms.
Heart Attack: Also known as a Myocardial Infarction or M.I., this is a serious health event that takes place when the blood flow to a part of the heart gets obstructed by a blood clot or due to the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart. Prompt medical intervention is critical to restore blood supply to the heart, and to preserve as much viable heart muscle tissue as possible.
Chest Pain: This symptom, if acute or of sudden onset, is given by intense pain in the chest. This may be the case with a heart attack, where chest pain can also be accompanied by difficulty breathing and sweating. Sudden intense chest pain can be seen in another conditions called pericarditis (inflammation or swelling of the membrane that surrounds the heart), which is often caused by viruses. Less serious forms of chest pain may be related to muscle pain (as in the case of costochondritis) or heartburn. However, medical evaluation is always warranted when a patient experiences chest pain.
High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides: These disorders are associated with elevated levels of lipid (fatty substances) in the blood stream, which could eventually build up on the walls of blood vessels like arteries. Over time, this causes the hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels of the heart and other organs (atherosclerosis).
Stroke: This event occurs when the blood flow to a part of the brain gets obstructed by a blood clot or due to the narrowing of the arteries that supply the brain. Inability to speak or slurred speech, inability to understand commands, sudden memory loss, difficulty walking or keeping balance, and headache, may be some of the early signs of a stroke. Seeking prompt medical attention is critical to ensure the stroke does not progress and causes irreversible brain and motor damage.
Heart Failure: This condition is due to the heart not being able to pump enough blood to the rest of the body, and therefore not meeting the body’s requirements for blood and oxygen levels. It is accompanied by weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and leg swelling, among other symptoms. Proper medical evaluation is important in order to address the root cause of the heart failure and to provide the most effective medical treatment for this condition.
High Blood Pressure: This condition is also known as Hypertension, and is given by increased pressure of the blood within the blood vessels. If uncontrolled, it can lead to a stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and many other complications.
Arrhythmia: This is a condition where there is an abnormal heart rhythm that could be either too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or simply irregular. The latter is what is most commonly referred to as Arrhythmia. If severe, blood clots could form within the heart chamber and they could travel, or become ‘embolized’, reaching the blood vessels of the brain and leading to a stroke. When cardiologists evaluate an abnormal heart rate, they can determine whether the placement of a pacemaker or other medical treatment is most adequate to control this condition and avoid complications.
Heart Valve Problems: This refers to a number of irregularities that could happen in the shape or structure of any of the valves of the heart. Valves function as ‘gates’ or ‘doors’ that control the flow of blood into and between the four chambers of the heart. The opening or closing of these valves is what guides the flow of blood within the heart chambers. Some valve defects can lead to significant health symptoms, and surgical procedures for valve repair or replacement may be recommended.
Ultimately, Prevention is the key to long lasting health, and is a most important step when dealing with the health of your heart. During your visit to the cardiologist, you will also receive important information regarding how best to prevent heart disease and stroke. Important topics will be:
Make sure to discuss all these options and other preventive medicine recommendations with your doctor.
For more information about Cardiology and on Heart Disease and Prevention, you can visit the following sites: